Memoirs of a Cult Survivor by Chasity Jones

This blogpost is a reflection on my experience creating a podcast series concerning religious trauma experienced in cults as well as how to heal from traumatic cult experiences.

Firstly, I had to be very intentional about the word survivor as opposed to victim. Survivor was the obvious choice because I used to cringe when thinking of myself as a victim. However, As I heal, I can honor both the survivor and the victim, for they are the same. I cannot forget to acknowledge though that some victims do not survive and this is the same concerning cults. Many people at this very moment are in exile or in hiding from their cults when they escape and for that reason some of the people who engaged in this series were forced to engage anonymously.

Continue reading “Memoirs of a Cult Survivor by Chasity Jones”

We Are Not Oppressed Because We Remember pt. 3: Sowing Seeds and Braiding Hair by Chasity Jones

Today, once again, I got to touch the earth!

While planting and constructing my indoor container garden, I thought about how my ancestors put seeds into their children’s hair so that in case they were taken away to live and die in chains, they would at least be able to sustain themselves with a piece of the motherland. Rice, okra, yams, watermelon, and so MANY more crops that would go on to make white slaveholding Americans so rich (passing their wealth to their descendants and zero reparations for the descendants of enslaved Africans), that they were willing to fight a war to sustain their evil practices of owning human beings as chattel (Check out High on the Hog Netflix documentary which was adapted from a book by Dr. Jessica B. Harris). Enslaved Africans brought these foods to the new world, a direct result of slavery.

As I wash my daughter’s hair (which for Black women and girls is a PROCESS!!), as I moisturize her hair, and as I braid my hair, I am thankful that no one has a right to my child and that I do not need to fear her enslavement. Instead, I manifest her revolutionary future to carry the torch of our ancestors. A Torch and a commitment to elevate our community and move the community forward. I leave it up to her to choose how she will carry that torch forward!

Continue reading “We Are Not Oppressed Because We Remember pt. 3: Sowing Seeds and Braiding Hair by Chasity Jones”

Stand Your Ground: An Interview with Kelly Brown Douglas by Gina Messina

Following the murders of Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice, Kelly Brown Douglas released her book, Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God. In this critical work, she details the embedding of structural violence within the doctrine of American Exceptionalism and the deep rooted racial injustice that our nation was founded upon.

Over the last several months, our world has changed. We’ve witnessed great tragedy and there is so much to grieve. COVID-19 intruded upon our lives abruptly forcing the realization of our misplaced priorities. However, systemic racism has always been here, tightly woven into the fabric of our society; yet privileged voices have failed to answer the call for justice. 

As so many risk their health and safety to march for racial justice; to exclaim that Black Lives Matter and that George Floyd’s life was indeed sacred (as was Raychard Brooks, Breonna Taylor, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Philandro Castile, Alton Sterling, Eric Garner…#SayTheirNames), we must consider our own responsibility in perpetuating oppressive structures that condone the trend of public lynchings. 

Following the murders of Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice, Kelly Brown Douglas released her book, Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God. In this critical work, she details the embedding of structural violence within the doctrine of American Exceptionalism and the deep rooted racial injustice that our nation was founded upon. She explains it was not a book that she wanted to write; rather, as a mother of an African American son, it is a book she was compelled to write. In doing so, Kelly has laid bare the sin of our nation. Five years later, her witness continues to demand our attention.

I reached out to Kelly and asked if she would be willing to talk with me about her book and she graciously agreed. Thus, for this post, I am sharing the wisdom of Kelly Brown Douglas, vlog style, knowing that, in this moment, it is her words that we all need to hear.  

 

Gina Messina, Ph.D. is an American feminist scholar, Catholic theologian, activist, and mom. She serves as Associate Professor and Department Chair of Religious Studies at Ursuline College and is co-founder of FeminismAndReligion.com. She has written for the Huffington Post and is author or editor of five books including Women Religion Revolution. Messina is a widely sought after speaker and has presented across the US at universities, organizations, conferences and on national platforms including appearances on MSNBC, Tavis Smiley, NPR and the TEDx stage. She has also spoken at the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations to discuss matters impacting the lives of women around the globe. Messina is active in movements to end violence against women and explores opportunities for spiritual healing. Connect with her on Twitter @GMessinaPhD, Instagram: @GinaMessinaPhD, Facebook, and her website ginamessina.com.

Blinded by the White by Marcia Mount Shoop

mms headshot 2015White supremacy culture is on full display day in and day out in America.  You don’t have to strain to see it—the President’s recent comparison of the impeachment proceedings to a lynching is the latest example.

Of course, even such an extreme example is still defended by white people of all shapes and sizes: senators, voters, talking heads, and the offender himself.  The grotesquery of such a distorted perspective is emblematic of a sickness in our country to be sure.

But there are even more sinister forms of white supremacy that afflict our collective lives.  They are harder for many white people to see. And they are, therefore, harder for us to believe. This kind of whiteness is the whiteness that blinds us. This is the whiteness that creates the conditions for the extremes to be mistaken for the whole problem.  But more importantly, this is the kind of whiteness that creates the conditions for whiteness to be even more tenacious in some dangerous and annihilating ways.

Continue reading “Blinded by the White by Marcia Mount Shoop”

Where’s the Love by Gina Messina

In a recent post I wrote about finding God in music. I confess, I cannot remember the last time I set foot in a church. As a woman, I continually grapple with the foundational messages of Jesus and Catholic Social Teaching and the disconnect with the power structures that seek to control the ways we love and find justice. I long to participate in the culture I grew up in, but cannot support the weaponization of the tradition. 

Lately, I’ve come to realize that the messages I connect to I find in music. There are particular songs that offer me the guidance, philosophy, and ideas around meaning and purpose that I resonate with. One of those is “Where’s the Love?” by the Black Eyed Peas.  

I’ve been listening to it on repeat lately because it is the sermon I need to hear; it speaks to me and even though it was recorded quite a while ago, it is still relevant. I think it is fair to say that in our current socio-political culture, people are “acting like they got no mamas.”  And by the way, I include myself in that statement. Like anyone, I sometimes get so caught up in believing that my way is the only way, I forget to listen to what others have to say.

We are in the midst of a political civil war and are so busy yelling past each other, we’ve forgotten how critical unity is to shaping a healthy government that serves its purpose – caring for the people. Continue reading “Where’s the Love by Gina Messina”

I Am Her by Karen Leslie Hernandez

I hear this a lot: “You’re Mexican? You don’t look it?” A friend I have had for over 40 years always says, “I don’t think of you that way.” I am never quite sure how to respond to these opinions. So, here, I muse.

My grandparents on my Dad’s side came over from Mexico in the early 1900’s. My grandfather, Juvenal, was a farmer and rancher for most of his life. Blond haired and blue eyed, his twinkle and staunch demeanor always made me wonder about his story. Unfortunately, I never met my maternal grandmother, Sofia, as she died when my father was 12 years old.

On my mom’s side, my great, great grandparents (Leonardo Romero) came over from Mexico in the 1800’s and helped to settle Tucson. The Romero family has spread far and wide throughout the West, but you can still go to the Romero House in Tucson, where they have art classes and have kept it has a historical landmark.

I am incredibly proud of my heritage – as light skinned and green eyed as I am, I consider myself Mexican American, and I proudly state that. Funny thing is, so many are uncomfortable with it. And, I wonder why.

Continue reading “I Am Her by Karen Leslie Hernandez”

On Not Eating Gefilte Fish by Joyce Zonana

What does it mean to be an Arab-Jew in the twenty-first century? For me, it means recognizing and honoring Arab culture: the music, food, language, and customs my parents brought with them when they emigrated from Cairo in 1952; it means feeling a strong bond with other Egyptians, North Africans, and Middle Easterners, refusing efforts in the U.S. and elsewhere to demonize and “other” any of us. It means respecting the claims of displaced Palestinians and protesting Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. It also means not seeking to equate our displacement with Palestinian displacement, as some Jews from Arab countries have sought to do, in a transparent effort to discredit Palestinian suffering.

jz-headshotWhen I was growing up in 1950s Bensonhurst, in Brooklyn, NY, my identity as a Jew was often called into question. “You mean you’re Jewish? And you don’t know about gefilte fish?” my best friend’s Eastern European (Ashkenazi) Jewish mother asked, shocked to discover that our family ate stuffed grape leaves rather than stuffed cabbage. “What kind of a Jew are you?” schoolmates challenged. When I answered “Sephardic . . . from Egypt,” they would reply. “But all the Jews left Egypt a long time ago, isn’t that what Passover is about?”  “No,” I would say, having been taught the words by my father. “Some Jews returned to Egypt when they were expelled from Spain.” [Later I would learn that some Jews actually lived in Egypt for millennia, never having left.] “There are no Jews in Egypt,” my little friends would retort. “We never heard of any Jews in Egypt. You can’t be Jewish.”

It was puzzling, I knew, but I could find nothing further to say. Aside from a handful of relatives, I did not know any other Jews from Egypt either. An Egyptian Jew. To my neighbors, it seemed a contradiction in terms, an oxymoron. To myself as well. What was the Egyptian part, what the Jewish? How did they fit together? Maybe I wasn’t really Jewish. Later, when acquaintances continued to wonder about my identity, I was similarly stymied. “You mean you don’t speak Yiddish?” they would ask after I had painstakingly explained that my grandparents spoke Arabic and French.

Continue reading “On Not Eating Gefilte Fish by Joyce Zonana”

Celtic Myth, Moon Blood, and the White Beauty Standard by Marisa Goudy

My woman’s body is entering the dark time of the moon, even with blinding white snow lashing the windows, even with a full moon tracing its way far above thick clouds. My mood is black and soon I’ll be flowing red, and the snow will just drive on white, white, white.

In The White Goddess, Robert Graves tells us: “…the New Moon is the white goddess of birth and growth; the Full Moon, the red goddess of love and battle; the Old Moon, the black goddess of death and divination.”

The Celt in me feels cradled by this imagery, even if, as Judith Shaw and Carol P. Christ have pointed out elsewhere on this site, the idea of maid, mother, and crone is a modern invention, not gift from the past. I agree with Christ:  “My suggestion is that we give up the idea that the details of contemporary Goddess Spirituality are rooted in and authorized by tradition. We can instead acknowledge that though we are inspired by the past, we are the ones who are creating contemporary Goddess Spirituality.”

Continue reading “Celtic Myth, Moon Blood, and the White Beauty Standard by Marisa Goudy”

Considering Our Spaces in the Pursuit of Justice by Elise M. Edwards

This past summer, my friend and I were perusing the exhibits at the National Museum of African-American History and Culture when she urgently called for my attention.  “Psst… Isn’t this where you are from?” she asked, pointing at a placard titled African American Life in Montgomery County.  Yes!  I grew up, I was educated, and I was churched in Montgomery County, Maryland.  So I eagerly read the exhibit’s description:

By 1900 there were at least eight African American communities in Montgomery County, Maryland. Unlike many rural African Americans, the residents were not tenant farmers—they owned their property and homes.  This gave them greater control over the land and the crops they produced.  They also directly benefited from improvements to their homes, which was an incentive to make additions and to stay in place.  Descendants of these early settlers still live in these communities today. Continue reading “Considering Our Spaces in the Pursuit of Justice by Elise M. Edwards”

Exploring Muslimness in the Aftermath of September 11, 2001 by Stephanie Arel

In my last post, I addressed the deeply personal accounts of Haroon Moghul’s self- and religious exploration in his memoir How to be a Muslim: An American Story. This post will broaden that reading to consider an October 2017 interview with Moghul at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in New York City.

The interview echoes themes relevant to current global crises which implicate religion including how religious rhetoric circulates to support extremist violence and Islamophobia. Exploring how the events of 9/11 intertwine with such crises adds depth to understanding Moghul’s individual experience.

Continue reading “Exploring Muslimness in the Aftermath of September 11, 2001 by Stephanie Arel”

White Christianity, Flags, and Football by Gina Messina

While Puerto Rico has faced its worst natural disaster in over a century; Trump has once again used trumpfoolery to distract his base from his failed action in assisting Americans in crisis by starting a fight with the NFL. It seems a fitting plot for the reality show television host turned fake politician/president.

People are dying in the streets with no access to water or medication. It is expected to take four months to restore power to the island and everyday mothers take their children to stand in line for a minimum of twelve hours to get two packs of ice – hopefully, a few more if their children are allowed a share as well.

Rather than mobilizing efforts to bring aid to Puerto Ricans, Trump has diverted attention from his failure by ranting that NFL players should be fired for disrespecting the American flag by taking a knee during the national anthem. It is no surprise that our fake president is unable to make the connection between the peaceful protests and lack of rights for every American – he likely thinks that Rosa Parks was protesting the transportation system. Continue reading “White Christianity, Flags, and Football by Gina Messina”

The Spirit and Jarena Lee: Inspiration to Break Boundaries by Elise M. Edwards

elise-edwardsI am so frustrated that we are still fighting to affirm women’s place in leadership.  I’ve been thinking about this struggle in the context of church ministries (especially preaching) and social activism, seeing a stark contrast between the way institutional churches and universities promote and subvert women’s authority and the ways movements like Black Lives Matter do.

Particularly, I’ve been struck by the ways that more radical movements employ language and practices that are based in spirit more than hierarchical authority.  I have found a theme emphasizing equality in humanity’s access to spirit in both historical and contemporary movements and writings about religious experience.  I’m certainly not the first one to notice or discuss how appeals to Spirit have empowered those excluded from dominant systems of power to challenge constrictive social structures, but I would like to share how this dynamic has become more visible to me so that, together, we might find encouragement, inspiration, and food for thought.

Continue reading “The Spirit and Jarena Lee: Inspiration to Break Boundaries by Elise M. Edwards”

Let’s Talk About White Supremacy by Grace Yia-Hei Kao

Sometimes I come across a resource that’s so fantastic that all I want to do is promote it.

This incredible graphic from the blog site Radical Discipleship recently made the rounds on my Facebook news feed.

Continue reading “Let’s Talk About White Supremacy by Grace Yia-Hei Kao”

It’s About More Than Just The Ariana Grande Concert by Karen Leslie Hernandez

Manchester.

It’s not just about this one act of violence.

It is horrific, there is no doubt, and I am in no way belittling this act of terror, but, I am always perplexed when these things happen, and how it turns into something so horrible that we forget how many children die every day around the world from other things, including terror.

Just yesterday, dozens of toddlers drowned off the coast of Libya.

One can easily find the statistics (which do vary) – an estimated 19,000 children die every day around the world due to effects of malnutrition and disease mostly in non-descript villages. Many of these young children die alone – they are unseen and forgotten.

Trafficking of children is higher than it has ever been with approximately 400,000 children trafficked worldwide every year, with an estimated 50% of these children trafficked for sex.

Our children are dying on our streets by other children’s bullets, and they’re dying in our schools by other children’s bullets.

Our children are dying at the hands of police officers.

Four to seven children die every day in the United States at the hands of their own parents.

It is difficult to find accurate numbers, but it’s estimated that a total of at least 150,000 children have died in Iraq since 2003, and in Syria since 2011.

A record number of children were killed last year in Afghanistan.

Pakistani children have also paid with their lives in drone strikes.

No one knows exactly how many Latino children die every year trying to cross over the US border through the desert.

The targeting of children anywhere is especially heinous. What happened in Manchester is stunning, horrible, outrageous and indescribable. However, we didn’t just fail these young people and their parents in Manchester, we are failing our children everywhere in the world. Continue reading “It’s About More Than Just The Ariana Grande Concert by Karen Leslie Hernandez”

Is Evil Winning? by Michele Stopera Freyhauf

If you are li15036682_10154709860681591_8947505383481702342_nke me, today (and most days lately) it is difficult to be positive in a world that seems so full of hate.  In fact, I struggled with a topic to write about because, in all honesty, it is hard to see the greener grass from where I sit – with all of the hatred spilling out in neighborhoods, churches, schools, and college campuses – even between family and friends.  As I scrolled through Facebook, I came across a video and was struck by its message – we must be relentless in our kindness otherwise evil will win.

“Relentless” is a word that currently echoes through the United States –on both sides of the aisle.  We have been relentless in raising our voice – writing, calling, e-mailing, visiting, marching – expressing our unhappiness with the current President and all that is happening in the White House.

Instead of struggling to find the words, I share  the video and offer a transcript.

Continue reading “Is Evil Winning? by Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

Do You Know Why We Are Marching? by Marcia Mount Shoop

When we got into the car to go, I asked my twelve-year-old daughter, “Do you know why we are marching today?”

“To protest Donald Trump?” she replied.

I explained that some people may be going for that reason, but that was not the reason I was going.

“Are there any positive reasons you can think of for why we are marching?” I asked her.

She went on to name several things Donald Trump had said about women. “I guess those are all still anti-Trump things,” she said.

“I am marching because I am a mother, I am a sister, I am a daughter, I am a wife, and I am a survivor. That’s what I am saying if anyone asks me,” I told her.

10000-strong-in-asheville-january-2017

I had already thought through this question. As a pastor of a church with people who have diverse political affiliations I am committed to being able to minister to everyone in my congregation. I have served churches in which my political views are in the minority and I have served churches in which my political views are in the majority. Both have challenging aspects, but nothing that I have experienced previously in terms of partisanship feels like it relates to what is happening in the United States right now. Those old partisan dynamics were difficult to navigate—it took discipline, but not one ounce of moral compromise.

The decision to march was not a partisan one, it was a moral one, and it was a spiritual one. If I didn’t march it I would be listening to a frightening interlocutor—and his name is despair.

Party affiliations are not creating the alienation at the root of what is happening. The challenges are much more painful—and if I stay silent or still in the face of this situation I would not be doing my job as a pastor or a mother. Continue reading “Do You Know Why We Are Marching? by Marcia Mount Shoop”

The End is Nigh by John Erickson

How will the world end? No, it isn’t Lucifer himself coming from hell to bring in the end times, it is someone far worse, and his name is Donald Trump.

John Erickson, sports, coming out.When I was a little boy I was terrified that I would live to experience the end of the world.  Whether it was by an asteroid, Y2K, or a zombie plague, I would make myself sick by picturing these horrible things that could befall me and my family.  Although I was a precocious child, the crippling fear that would lurch its way up my stomach and into my head would sometimes make it impossible to sleep at night.  While I like to think I grew out of that phase, I now sit here feeling that way again.  I’m crippled with fear that the end of the world is at hand and there may be nothing we can do to stop it.   How will the world end? No, it isn’t Lucifer himself coming from hell to bring in the end times, it is someone far worse, and his name is Donald Trump.

By the time you’re reading this post, the first Presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will have occurred and, no matter where you look, the aftermath will haunt us for weeks to come.  We will either be sitting here, coaxing in the sunlight that Clinton has, in proper fashion, just goaded Trump into revealing to the 100 or so million viewers that will have chimed in to viewing how completely dangerous he truly is, or will we be scurrying to uncover decade old bunkers that were used during the 1950s and the Cold War to take shelter from the fallout to come should, Donald Trump become the next President of the United States. Continue reading “The End is Nigh by John Erickson”

I’m Stumped by Karen Leslie Hernandez

karen hernandezI’m stumped.

We’ve all seen and heard what Donald Trump has said in the public sphere…

“If Ivanka weren’t my daughter, I’d be dating her.”

“… a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

“Laziness is a trait in blacks.”

“@ariannahuff is unattractive both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man – he made a good decision.”

“If I were running The View, I’d fire Rosie. I mean, I’d look her right in that fat, ugly, face of hers, and I’d say, ‘Rosie, you’re fired.'”

On Christianity… “We’re gonna bring it back.”

“Build that wall, build that wall, build that wall…”

This and more brings to light that there is no doubt – Donald Trump is sexist, misogynistic, racist, bigoted, spiteful, immature, xenophobic, and all those other big words he cannot even pronounce.

He mocks disabled people, let’s his followers bully and physically harm attendees at his rallies, and he told Univision reporter Jorge Ramos, “… You haven’t been called. Go back to Univision,” after Ramos challenged Trump at a rally last year on his view of, “illegal immigration.”

But, there’s something that should be pointed out – that people are following and voting for him. And even worse, we all know at least one person who is voting for Donald Trump. I am embarrassed to say that I know at least three. I know several people close to me who voted for George W. Bush too. BOTH times! This was stunning enough to me. But, Donald Trump is different. Even Bush wasn’t as bad. And, I can’t believe I’m even writing that. Yet, it’s true. Donald Trump is a whole new piece of work.

Here’s the harsh truth. Continue reading “I’m Stumped by Karen Leslie Hernandez”

A Crisis of Faith-We’re Not Listening by Karen Hernandez

karen hernandezOrlando. Syria. Sandy Hook. Belgium. Somalia. Ethiopia. Venezuela. Paris.

After the shooting in Orlando I was numb. In fact, every time a mass shooting occurs now, I am numb. I think we all feel that way, but we all handle it in various ways. Within hours, there are blog posts, articles, and news pieces. People explode on social media with memes, arguments, and debates. There’s a whole lot of projection, a whole lot of persecution, and a mess of ideologies. Yet, what have I noted that is lacking? The ability to listen.

It seems Omar Mateen was gay. No one will ever know for sure. Lovers have come forward, information was found on his computer and phone that points to him being gay, yet, it is all speculation. Mateen didn’t just attack a gay nightclub because he was homophobic. It seems his inner demons ate away at his soul. The fact that he was Muslim on top of that, which, if you follow the doctrine, forbids homosexuality, obviously lent to his actions that fateful night.

Let’s say Mateen was gay. His faith dictated to him that he couldn’t be. He struggled. He prayed. He married two women. Then, he killed 49 people.

Yet, what people aren’t seeing is the real crisis here. We’re not listening. Continue reading “A Crisis of Faith-We’re Not Listening by Karen Hernandez”

Goddess Politics and the Cauldron of Memory by Kavita Maya

KavitaMaya‘Someone needs to gather the stories, to keep the cauldron,’ said the late Goddess feminist artist Lydia Ruyle during one of the last times we spoke, at the 2014 Glastonbury Goddess Conference. I had hinted at my concerns around conducting doctoral research in the presence of ongoing conflict within the Glastonbury Goddess community (especially when my broadly-stated site of interest is ‘politics’), and in reply she had stressed the need to ‘hold space’ for the different voices and perspectives in the UK Goddess movement, and that conflict would be inevitable. ‘There needs to be a weaver,’ she said.

The following day I recorded an interview with Lydia and some of her friends at Café Galatea on the High Street, which she had been keen to ensure since the previous summer—with poignant foresight, given her death in March 2016. I’m not sure if she was expecting that I should fully take on the role of this ‘weaver’—there are more stories than one PhD thesis can claim to encompass—but the theme is present in my writing. Her words lead me to reflect on the weaving together of politics with memory and storytelling, and on the need to honour the plural histories of the British Goddess movement. Continue reading “Goddess Politics and the Cauldron of Memory by Kavita Maya”

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